Nepal is mostly known for the mighty Himalayas. Ever since it opened its door to foreigners in the 1950s, the country has been popular amongst the mountaineers, trekkers, and adventurers. The trails scattered around the upper region of the country close down during winter and thus, from December to March, only a few visit the country during this time.
One of the main ideas of the Visit Nepal Year 2020 campaign thus had been to explore the opportunities to attract visitors throughout the year. With the theme of #Nepalforallseasons, the campaign has been conducting studies and researches to seek new tourism products that would bring in the tourists even during the off-seasons. Among the various possibilities, with the rise of popularity of Open Lake sports in the Western World, Figure Skating and Ice Hockey had been selected for trial through recce by a team of experts a few months back.
Laura Kottwolski, an alpine figure skater and Nick Kalisz, filmmaker and ice hockey player from the USA, went up to the Gokyo Lakes to test the feasibility of starting the winter sports activities of Ice Hockey and Figure Skating at the end of December in 2020. With the positive result, SKATE NEPAL, the first-ever Figure Skating Exhibition and friendly Ice Hockey Match, is taking place on February 14 at Gokyo Lake III in the Everest Region.
The Lifetime Experiences Event is set to feature elite alpine figure skaters, avid climbers, ice hockey trainers, and adventure enthusiasts include Olympians from Canada and the USA like Jeremy Abbott, the 2008 Grand Prix Final champion from the US, Patrick Chan, a 2018 Olympic gold medalist in the team event, Elizabeth Putnam, a Canadian former competitive pair skater, Matej Silecky, an American Ice Skater who was part of the 2012 U.S. Collegiate Figure Skating Champion, Junior Men, besides Nick & Laura, along with players from Russia like Dmitriy Viktorovich Dudarev, one of the participants of 2010 IIHF World Championship, Sergei Evgenyevich Voronov, the ISU Grand Prix NHK Trophy winner, and Aleksandr Chekashev, former Ice Hockey player who participated in various ice hockey leagues. and members of Into-Tibet Border Police Team which recently won the Indian Ice Hockey Championship, Tsewang Namgail, Tashi Largyal, Jigmet Rinchen and Tinlass Glasston from India and
Similarly, this historic event will also mark the first-ever introduction of the ice rink in Nepal, which might be the only ice rink in the highest altitude at 4790m of the world to date.
Skate Nepal, the initiation of the Government of Nepal through the Visit Nepal Year 2020 campaign aims to introduce and explore the enormous potential of high altitude adventure sports in Nepal as well as high-end tourism products in the country and creating a niche market in popular tourist areas including the trekking regions of Everest.
During the pre-launch event held today, Mr. Suraj Vaidya also gave a glimpse of what Nepal has to offer in the year 2020 including Kali X, the MTB Race in the deepest gorge of the world, and Great Karnali Quest, the longest White Water Rafting Challenge that goes up to 200m. “Nepal has many glacier lakes scattered around from East to West. If this product is successfully launched in Gokyo, then it can be replicated around all of those lakes”, he shared, adding that Visit Nepal as a campaign is not a stand-alone event but a step towards the development of sustainable tourism through introducing new products and investments.
Similarly, Dawa Steven Sherpa, one of the Program Implementation Sub-Committee (PISC) members, shared that Skate Nepal, itself, will also not be limited to one event this year. According to him, the recce team had also trained the locals in the Gokyo region Ice Safety, skating and preparation of Ice in the hope to sustain the project in the days to come. “We are also talking about building ice rinks in Namche and other lower regions so that the children who can’t trek to Gokyo can learn skating to sustain the sports,” he shared, adding that after the Feb 14 event, Skate Nepal will establish Nepal as a hub for high altitude figure skating and ice hockey which can be done from December to March.